Top surgery is one of the most important milestones in any trans man or non-binary individual’s life. By eliminating the presence of traditionally feminine breasts, it can help you live a more comfortable and confident life in your chosen gender identity.
It is generally thought that the risk of breast cancer is diminished by having top surgery since the procedure removes breast tissue. Less breast tissue means that there is less tissue for cancerous cells to grow in. However, while FTM/N chest surgery greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer developing, it is not a 100% guarantee. Breast cancer can develop in different parts of the breast and there will almost always be some breast tissue still remaining in the chest wall after surgery.
If you were born with breasts, it is important that you continue to be vigilant of any signs of breast cancer after your FTM/N surgery.
Regardless of your gender identity, we highly recommend anyone who has undergone top surgery should perform regular self-breast and chest examinations on a regular basis both before and after surgery. When examining your chest, look for any differences in the remaining breast tissue such as changes in size, feeling or appearance. This includes any pain, lumps or asymmetries. There are a variety of reasons you may notice these significant changes, including breast cancer, so you should bring these concerns up to your primary care physician immediately.
Despite your risk of breast cancer significantly diminishing after FTM/N chest reconstruction, it is still recommended that people 50 years of age and older have annual breast cancer screenings. However, undergoing FTM/N top surgery may not make traditional mammography possible due to a lack of breast tissue. Additionally, scar tissue that is now present in the chest after surgery can also make it more difficult to detect cancerous cells. That being said, there are ways to screen for breast cancer. You might have to undergo MRI imaging instead if you and your doctor both agree you are high enough risk to justify the procedure.
If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, you could have potentially inherited certain gene mutations such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 that increase your risk of breast cancer. Individuals with these genes are considered to be high risk and should have annual breast screenings starts as young as 30-years-old. High-risk individuals also include those who have a child, parent or sibling with an identified BRCA mutation. This includes if you have a first-degree male relative who has had breast cancer.
There are other risk factors to consider when it comes to breast cancer. Age is a major contributing factor as most breast cancer diagnoses occur after the age of 50. Individuals who started menstruating before the age of 12 and started menopause after the age of 55 are also more at risk. This is due to being exposed to hormones longer, which increases the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, people who have had to undergo radiation therapy to their chest before the age of 30 have a greater risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
While there are factors that can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, there are also things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Past research studies have shown that getting enough regular exercise can keep you at a healthy weight while simultaneously boosting your immune system. So much as 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week is enough to help reduce your risk.
Making sure that you are eating a nutritious, low-fat diet is a great practice for anyone, but it can also reduce the risk of breast cancer. A diet that’s high in fat can actually fuel tumour growth. Eat those fruits and veggies!
It is not a new discovery that smoking and alcohol consumption can lead to various kinds of cancers, including breast cancer. More than one drink a day has been shown to be a considerable factor for breast cancer. This also includes second-hand smoke.
As mentioned previously, breast tissue will still remain in the chest wall after FTM/N top surgery, but if you are considered a more high-risk individual, you can implement these changes to reduce your risk even more considerably.